From the Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce Legislative April 24th, 2015 Update:
In cooperation with the Lieutenant Governor, the Chamber hosted a Young Professionals Economy Pitch Session at the State House this week. Legislators heard from thirteen young professionals from around the state about their ideas for how to grow the economy and increase opportunities for young professionals. From property tax stabilization in designated areas and millenials blogging about Vermont to state investment in LaunchVT and improved transportation infrastructure, these young workers provided a range of new and interesting ideas, many of which haven't been presented at any of the six previous economy pitch sessions around the state. We appreciate the legislators who made time to attend and the young professionals, many of whom drove significant distances to share their ideas. Thank you to:
- Alex Beck of Southern Vermont Young Professionals (BDCC), who spoke about the digital divide and the opportunities for economic development that exist in areas of the state, particularly rural, that could benefit from improved broadband and technology infrastructure;
- Owen Brady of Burlington Young Professionals, who encouraged legislators to view our manmade treasures, such as factories and office parks, not as blights on the landscape but as signs of vitality and economic progress and who advocated for straightforward, predictable permitting processes and a simplified process for green development;
- Kwame Dankwa, who suggested improvements to the transportation infrastructure, especially between Rutland and Burlington, and recommended the implementation of small tolls at state borders to raise revenue and create jobs;
- Gwen Flewelling, who shared her experience as a CPA working with young professionals with crippling student loan debt and advocated for increased student loan forgiveness and consolidation programs or tax incentives for businesses that help employees with student loans;
- Sara Gilbert of NeighborWorks of Western Vermont, who advocated for down payment assistance for young homebuyers, technical assistance and lending programs for energy efficiency upgrades, and better publicity of one-on-one education and coaching opportunities for first-time homebuyers;
- Nick Grimley, a cofounder of LaunchVT, who focused on increased state investment in the business pitch competition as a way to grow the start-up ecosystem;
- Michael Harrington of the Town of Bennington, who encouraged legislators to position Vermont as a small business Mecca by offering incentives for small businesses and reduced cost office space for start-ups;
- Erynn Hazlett of Northshire Young Professionals, who suggested investment in rail development to lure the increasing number of millenials who do not drive and recommended the creation of a Young Professional Research Committee to determine the needs of young professionals across the state;
- Erik Hoekstra of Redstone, who advocated for property tax stabilization on housing development in designated downtowns and growth centers to address the housing shortage and encourage development in areas desirable to young professionals;
- Eric LaMontagne of Lake Champlain International, who encouraged legislators to view phosphorous as a resource to be capitalized on rather than simply a pollutant, providing an overview of three-tiered digesters that turn phosphorous into sellable commodities;
- Edmar Mendizabal, who challenged the Legislature to be assertive about marketing and branding Vermont as a place to live, especially to those engaged in the highly lucrative gaming industry, which has a significant presence in Montreal;
- Alex Meyer of Renaissance Information Systems, who stressed the need for branding that highlights the advanced technology and business sectors as well as the landscape and advocated greater publicity to Vermonters about free or inexpensive educational opportunities, such as those offered at Vermont Technical College;
- Sas Stewart of Stonecutter Spirits, who presented an idea for marketing Vermont that involves the state launching an RFP for ten millenials to blog about their lives in the state.
We also took a few minutes to share some of the results of our Young Professionals Housing Survey and advocate for passage of the first-time homebuyer downpayment assistance program that we have advanced in concert with the Vermont Housing Finance Agency.